Ty Wigginton, a former major-league infielder, was named Lake Norman High’s new baseball coach last week, replacing Trey Ramsey. Wigginton played collegiately at UNC-Asheville and was drafted by the New York Mets in the 17th round of the 1998 MLB Draft. Wigginton made his pro debut with the Mets in 2002, and during his 12-year career played for eight teams, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies, Philadelphia Phillies and closed his career in 2013 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Wigginton was an all-star in 2010 with the Orioles and batted .262 for his career with 169 home runs and nearly 600 RBIs.
Lake Norman is Wigginton’s first head-coaching job, but the long-time lake resident says he is excited to get started. Wigginton recently sat down with the Mooresville Weekly to discus his career and future with the Wildcats.
Q: You played for 12 seasons in the majors with a bunch of different teams. What is your big-picture take away from your professional career?
A: I had a great time chasing my dreams, but I kind of look at it now like that’s a past life. I enjoyed everything about the game and I always have since the time I was little. I got the opportunity to live my dreams and hopefully there are some boys from Lake Norman who get that opportunity. I wish everybody gets the opportunity to live out their dreams in whatever way they want to.
Q: You got drafted out of UNC-Asheville by the Mets and were in the big leagues within four years, but you had some hardships, too. In 2005 with the Pirates you were sent back to the minors for the first time in your career. How tough was that on you?
A: I think that’s part of life no matter what you do. I don’t think I looked at it that way. The hardest part for me was coming up through the Mets organization and getting traded. You realize every organization is totally different, and I struggled with the change but you learn to overcome it and move on. From there I changed teams quite a bit, so I had a lot of adjustments to make.
Q: What is the feeling of getting traded like for a professional athlete?
A: It’s hard. I remember the first time I got traded from the Mets to Pittsburgh, I was in the turtle taking batting practice before a game in Atlanta. (Manager) Art Howe said, ‘Hey, sneak up to my office.’ I went up there and found out the news. Everyone is coming in from (batting practice) getting ready to play and you’re packing your bags to get on an airplane and go to a new city. It was a tough experience. I moved around quite a bit, but you never get used to it.
Q: You have a family – wife Angela and three children Chase, Cannon and Laila. What is that like to get traded and having to move to different cities and restart your life?
A: That part was really easy. My wife was extremely supportive, and she pretty much took care of everything when I was playing. She let me focus on that part of it, and she took care of everything else.
Q: You played your college ball in North Carolina and have some ties to the state. How long have you been in the lake area?
A: I’ve been in the Lake Norman area in Cornelius since 2002, and we’ve been living here every off-season since.
Q: What is your coaching experience prior to taking the Lake Norman job?
A: I’ve coached one of my son’s teams, but that’s pretty much the only true coaching I’ve done. Playing in the big leagues, you’re always a coach, though. Players always bounce around ideas, so that’s part of it, but it’s just knowing the game that I think will translate well.
Q: How did this job come about for you? Were you looking to get into high school coaching and was Lake Norman a place you wanted to be?
A: I would come here some during the off-season and take some batting practice or field some balls, so I was aware of the school, and me and (Wildcat athletics director) Jamie Mabe have some mutual friends but had never met. Basically, I got in touch with Jamie and over the next couple of weeks the opportunity was thrown out to me. I talked it over with my wife, and here we are.
Q: This has always been a good program that’s had a lot of success over the years. What are you most excited about in coming here?
A: I want to get out here and share with the kids. The fun part will be seeing how they develop and watching them take the next steps. That’s what I look forward to the most.
Q: What will you take from your playing career into coaching? Do you see it as a tough transition going from playing at a high level to coaching?
A: I don’t think it’s a tough transition. I think mental preparation is everything. The hard work comes in practice, and the games are the fun part. Hopefully we get a whole program of guys who believe that. When you get those guys working hard in practice and start to see those results in the game, that becomes the grind.
Q: What is something that you think could be a challenge in your first season as a coach?
A: I’m not really sure yet. You’d have to ask me that at the end of the season, and I’d be able to give you an honest answer. Different things are going to come my way, but it’s just like a job. You have to figure your way to find out how to make it the best. That’s not going to change here. I’m sure there are going to be bumps in the road, but we’ll have to figure them out.
Q: When do you get started?
A: I have to double-check, but I think it’s some time in September when we can start some eight-man stuff.
Q: New coaches get a lot of different information about the program and kids they’re inheriting. What do you know about some of your players already and have you met them yet?
A: I’ve met some of them, but I’m going to make my own evaluations about them based off what I see in practice, and it’s going to be like that every year. I’m not bringing in any preconceived thoughts, I’ll base it all off what I see on the field. I’m learning this, too, but I’m excited to get on the field and see what we have.